Impulsivity & Hyperactivity

Adventures in Parenting: Do Kids with ADHD Always Learn the Life Lessons We Want Them to?

A mom shares her experiences with high-energy children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Are they too strong-willed, impulsive, or distracted to learn lessons?

Make lists during the holidays so your tasks don't weigh down on you , like snow on branch

On page 28 of the Spring 2010 issue of ADDitude magazine, there’s a story about Natalie’s best friend, Harry! Harry, like Nat, has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the piece, Harry’s mom, Victoria, chronicles her experience taking Harry on RAGBRAI, the (Des Moines, Iowa) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, “the oldest, largest, and longest bicycle touring event in the world.” Add hottest, and that pretty much sums it up.

When Harry’s mom told me she was planning to take Harry on RAGBRAI, I thought she was crazy. I won’t even take Natalie to the grocery store unless I have no other choice, and here she was signing up for an event that demands seven days of sustained attention from an a child with an attention deficit! As it turned out, she wasn’t crazy. She and Harry had a great experience, and have already signed up to do it all again in the summer of 2010.

Victoria was so proud of Harry — the way he charmed adults from all walks of life, conversed and made friends, and most of all, his stick-to-it-ness in completing the entire ride. Harry was proud of himself too. He still brings up his RAGBRAI experience often, when he and Natalie play together.

I recently asked Harry what he liked best about RAGBRAI. His answer: “Going number one and number two by the side of the road, in a field. Right in a farmer’s field!” Not quite along the lines of what mom took away from the experience, huh? (Sorry Victoria, I just had to share!)

Here’s another funny story, this one funny-after-the-fact only. I recently took Natalie and Harry sledding together. As you may recall reading in an earlier post, a few weeks before, Harry had “that accident” — the one where he lost two thirds of the surface of his tongue after touching it to cold metal. I thought — hoped — both Natalie and Harry had learned a lesson from that. But, no. Not Natalie.

Natalie managed to be the only kid at the sledding hill that wasn’t having a great time. She just couldn’t get past the fact that Harry got a cool new sled for Christmas, and she didn’t have the exact same one. As dozens of kids screamed with excitement and the pure joy of racing down a snow-covered hill, Nat crabbed and whined. Threw herself to the ground. Kicked around like a three year old. Whaaa. Whaaa. (It’s times like this that her differences from typical kids stick out like a sore thumb.)

While in proximity to the icy ground, Nat somehow became hyper-focused on eating the snow, and licking the ice. “Be careful,” I warned, “Your tongue could stick to the ice just like Harry’s stuck to our door!” But she kept on, and on, and on, and on. Until, finally, it happened. She raised her head, mouth open, tongue sticking out, blood dripping from the tip, thus ending our not-so-joyous-anyway outing.

Do you have a story, like Harry’s, where your child’s take-away was the polar opposite of your own?

Or, like Natalie’s, where ADHD-fueled fascination acted as a blinder to lessons learned?